Live Ocean Foundation, New Zealand’s Race for the Future partner, has revealed how the Kiwi team’s Impact League success is translating into real action to restore and protect the ocean back home.

Peter Burling’s team currently sits at the top of the Impact League leaderboard after picking up wins in Bermuda and Plymouth, a second place in Denmark, and a joint first in Singapore.

Prize money of $25K is shared among the top two teams, and the most improved team, at each event and donated to their Race For the Future partners.

New Zealand’s Impact League win in Season 2 previously enabled Live Ocean to fund crucial research into kelp and the role it plays in sequestering blue carbon. But the team’s success in Season 3 is funding a different project in the very harbor where the fleet will race at next month’s ITM New Zealand Sail Grand Prix.

The initiative, known as the Māra Moana Project, is aiming to reverse the damage of a major marine heatwave in 2018, which has wiped out a huge amount of kelp in Whakaraupō Lyttelton Harbour.

The restoration project draws on the work of the University of Otago, which has been cultivating Giant Kelp known as ‘rimurimu’ which can cope with warmer water.

“Some particular species of kelp are very temperature sensitive,” explained Live Ocean’s Programme Director Andrew Judge, “so as the water temperature increases due to climate change, much of the kelp is dying off.”

Season 3 // New Zealand SailGP Team // Māra Moana Project Kelp project

Some of the individual rimurimu kelp however is more climate-resilient, and the researchers’ aim is to genetically identify individual plants that are adept at thriving in warmer water temperatures.

Over the next 15 months, the Māra Moana Project aims to begin the process of restoring and buffering valuable kelp forest ecosystems against the ongoing stress of climate change.

The Māra Moana project will work in collaboration with an Iwi-led initiative to control the invasive Undaria pinnatifida by reseeding native kelp in areas where removals have taken place.

Judge said New Zealand’s Impact League success, particularly winning the Season 2 podium for the planet, has brought the foundation’s funding and profile ‘into the mainstream’.

“It gave our board the confidence to make multi-year commitments to scientists and really grow up as a granter,” he said. “We’ve got better reserves and income. That allows us to fully back our partners, accelerating their impact.”

United States sail Grand Priz | San Francisco // Season 2 // New Zealand // Impact League Trophy // Sylvia Earle

Sally Paterson, Live Ocean’s chief executive added that the foundation felt ‘lucky’ to have ‘a team so dedicated’.

“The ocean is a big space and there’s a lot of work to be done,” she said. “Having a team that has a platform and is working hard to reduce their impact to fund research in this space makes this a fantastic partnership.”